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SEPTEMBER 2020

U.S. Space Force’s Identity Crisis: What To Name Its Members?

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U.S. Space Force's Identity Crisis: What To Name Its Members?

Image by Slate. Click to see full-size image

Shortly after the US Space Force was formed and it appears to be living through its first existential crisis: What to name the personnel?

The situation is such that the US Air Force even published a request for “U.S. military space professionals” to provide feedback in what to name the Space Force’s members as well as their ranks.

“Given the significance a name has to the identity and culture of an organization, the Space Force is taking a deliberate approach to ensure Space Force member titles and ranks appropriately convey the nature of the newest Armed Forces branch and the domain in which it operates.”

It should be similar to how the Air Force calls its members “Airmen” and the Army calls its members “Soldiers.”

“As we continue to forge the Space Force into a lean, agile and forward-looking 21st century warfighting branch, we want to provide space professionals the opportunity to influence what the members of our new service will be called,” said Lt. Gen. DT Thompson, U.S. Space Force vice commander. “The decisions we make today will shape the Space Force for decades to come, so we want to ensure those who will serve in the Space Force have a say when it comes to important organizational and cultural identity considerations.”

Currently, only the entry-level position has a name – “space cadet.”

For any further ranks, as well as a collective name, there’s room for suggestions. Officials emphasized several guidelines respondents must consider when submitting ideas.

“For example, proposals must be gender-neutral, distinctive and should emphasize a future-oriented military force. In addition, submissions cannot violate copyrights, infringe on trademarks or other intellectual property rights, or be proprietary. Any submission falling into those categories will not be considered. Submissions must also be in good taste.”

Back in February 2019, Slate suggested several options: “Space trooper” – it relates to the popular book and movie Starship Troopers, and clearly you can’t name that the members because it’s copyrighted.

“Space sentinel is a strong candidate as it evokes an image of a person standing watch over something, such as the Army’s Old Guard sentinel protecting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.”

It would show that the US, is not only the “protector of Earth” but also of “space,” mostly from presumed or self-invented threats.

“A space guardian makes sense as well, in part because of the way it invokes the heavens. As the newest military service, some space professionals would prefer to use terminology that isn’t steeped in centuries of military history.”

But, names relating to space TV series are not a bad idea – the US Space Force’s logo is from Star Trek, and the cadets have the same name such as those from the classic cosmo opera (the term space cadet in American mass culture is inextricably linked with the fantastic comics of the 1930s and 1940s).

U.S. Space Force's Identity Crisis: What To Name Its Members?

Spot the differences. Click to see full-size image

But cadets who graduated aren’t named anything. The interim term seems to be the streamlined “space professionals” used by the commander of the US Air Force Forces General John Raymond at a recent symposium. The options proposed by the employees themselves are spacemen and space soldiers are considered, but are unlikely to take root.

They could also introduce the Jedi Order, and assume all of the ranks, with padawans and everything else.

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